This voter education guide is published primarily as a resource and does not constitute an endorsement of any candidate or proposition by ANTIGRAVITY Magazine.
Welcome once again to your ANTIGRAVITY voter education for the November 18 general election. On this runoff ballot you will be voting for, state-wide: secretary of state, attorney general, treasurer, and four more constitutional amendments. You may also see state representatives, state senators, and some neighborhood-specific matters on your ballot.
We have published these guides since 2014—previously in collaboration with the New Orleans Harm Reduction Network and now under the ANTIGRAVITY banner. Our research included but was not limited to: public records; campaign finance reports; court filings; real estate records; national, local, and social media; as well as information and insight from trusted, local sources and experts.
Despite lacking faith in politicians or the political order, we create this document as a way to dissect and map power. We do not offer endorsements, but we do provide summaries, as this is a resource designed to aid and alleviate the work for you, the reader. News relevant to this ballot will continue to break. We are but one resource, and we hope that you consult as many as possible before heading to the polls.
We suggest you bring a photo ID to the polls, but if you do not have one you can still cast a ballot by signing a voter affidavit which vouches for your identity. The secretary of state audits all voter affidavits after the election to ensure that you are who you say you are.
If you have a disability, you are entitled to receive assistance to cast your vote. If your assigned polling place is not accessible, you can vote at the nearest polling place with the same ballot or at the Registrar of Voters office.
The makeup of the ballot, including names of candidates and texts of propositions, as well as information about how, where, and when to register and vote is based on information provided by the Louisiana Secretary of State and the City of New Orleans website. For info on what your ballot looks like, as well as information about disability and voting, go to the SoS website.
If you find that you cannot in good conscience cast a vote for any of the candidates for a particular race or a specific ballot measure, you are allowed to skip that ballot item. According to the Secretary of State’s office, “A voter cannot cast a blank ballot; otherwise, they are free to vote for as many or as few races/questions as are on their ballot—from all of them to just one of them.”
After a devastating Jeff Landry win, and Republicans laying claim over offices that the State Democratic Party didn’t even put up a fight over, it’s easy to feel defeated. But this is an election with almost guaranteed abysmal turnout—which means your vote actually has some sway here. More importantly, however, is a reminder that your civic involvement as an individual does not, and should not, end at the ballot box. Find a local mutual aid group to offer time or resources to, stock a community fridge, attend City Council and other public meetings where policy is discussed and implemented, be in constant communication with your local representatives about what you’d like to see them do (or not do), join a political organizing group, talk to your neighbors and find out what they need and how you can work together. The fight for Louisiana will require far more from us than relying on elected officials of either party—and we do have more power than they lead us to believe.
Secretary of State
“Gwen” Collins-Greenup (Democrat)
Nancy Landry (Republican)
The Secretary of State’s Office is responsible for overseeing state elections, maintaining business registrations, and managing the state archives. The contenders in this runoff couldn’t have finished much closer to one another: Democrat Gwen Collins-Greenup received 19.25% of the vote, while Republican Nancy Landry received 19.34%.
Attorney and accountant Gwen Collins-Greenup generally has spoken of the need to modernize the office, including streamlining business filings and replacing old voting machines. Collins-Greenup wants to address some of the actual issues impacting election returns in Louisiana and “encourage voter participation, increase voter outreach, streamline voter registration, improve voter access, combat voter suppression, and lead efforts to increase protections for election workers against threats,” according to her website.
In a Voters Organized to Educated survey, Collins-Greenup said she believes prison gerrymandering—where incarcerated people are counted for districting purposes in the places they’re locked up, despite usually not being able to vote, rather than where they’re from—”waters down the constitutional principle of ‘One Person, One Vote’ and needs urgent attention to uphold fair representation.” She also said she’d work to make sure people being held while awaiting trial, who normally are allowed to vote, get to do so.
She also says that in light of the recent Supreme Court decision in Allen v. Milligan, which held Alabama’s Congressional districts violate the Voting Rights Act and required the state to add another majority-minority district, she would “[c]oncede that the [Louisiana] federal maps are inequitable, and work with the legislature to ensure a second Black-majority district is in place prior to the 2024 Congressional election cycle.”
Outside of her legal and accounting work, Collins-Greenup also works officiating youth sports and has done various church and nonprofit work.
It’s worth pointing out that she holds a bachelor’s degree and three master’s degrees from Liberty University, the institution started by televangelist Jerry Falwell and known for its conservatism; and The Advocate reported in 2018 that “Collins-Greenup and her Republican rivals agreed on most social issues.”
But Collins-Greenup has thus far refreshingly kept whatever her beliefs are about matters unrelated to this office out of the race, and she’s offered what seems to be a reasonable, voting rights-focused approach on the matters that are relevant.
Nancy Landry works under incumbent Kyle Ardoin as first assistant secretary of state and points to her experience in the office. “With everything on the line, 2024 might be the most important election in our lifetime,” she said. “There is no time for a Secretary of State who needs on-the-job training.”
A self-proclaimed conservative, Landry previously served in the state House of Representatives and controversially backed state vouchers to subsidize private school tuition. At the time, she vowed to “[f]ight to protect all innocent life” (presumably meaning she opposed abortion) and to protect Second Amendment rights.
She has also worked in family law and in handling land title issues for oil companies.
SUMMARY: Gwen Collins-Greenup seems to have a firm grasp of the duties of the office and a commitment to voting rights.
Lindsey Cheek (Democrat)
“Liz” Baker Murrill (Republican)
The role of the Attorney General is to be the “chief legal officer of the state” and to oversee the Department of Justice. This runoff is between a Republican candidate (who is Jeff Landry’s right-hand woman) and a Democratic candidate who seems fairly progressive on several issues.
In stark contrast to Liz Murrill, Lindsey Cheek’s official website explicitly states that she is an advocate for reproductive rights and abortion access. In a post on her official campaign Facebook page, Cheek described herself as “preaux-woman,” “preaux-worker,” and “preaux-voting rights.” Her other policy priorities, as stated on her campaign website, include supporting anti-recidivism programs and education initiatives and addressing corruption—particularly related to the oil and gas giants, Big Pharma, and insurance companies.
Cheek is an attorney who practices out of her own law firm. A self-proclaimed “Pitbull for the People,” Cheek has won over $60 million for her clients, including asbestos and mesothelioma cases and Cancer Alley victims. She has indicated that she would continue to take on Cancer Alley polluters and other environmental crime in her role as AG.
As we reported in the October voter education guide, despite positioning herself as an advocate for the people, she does not seem to universally support the state protecting citizens in all areas of the law. According to her answers in the Voters Organized to Educate poll, she believes that the state has been “over-aggressive with litigation” related to “consumer/resident protections in the areas of pharmaceuticals, banking industry, petrochemicals, and online commerce.” She also does not believe that it is the role of the attorney general to ensure that commercial background check services “comply with federal and state regulations such as the Fair Credit Reporting Act.”
Of course, Lindsey Cheek as attorney general would be nowhere near as harmful as a Landry-Murrill double bill. More importantly, it would mean that there would be at least one person in the upper echelons of state government willing to push back against Landry’s regressive changes.
Liz Murrill is now one step closer to replacing her boss Jeff Landry as State attorney general, who has, unsurprisingly, officially endorsed her now that he is governor-elect. We reported in the voter education guide for the October 14 primary election that Murrill’s legal and philosophical outlooks are closely aligned with those of Landry; she is, politically, the Second Coming of Landry, which is an incredibly chilling prospect now that he will be in the highest state office. The current solicitor general for the Louisiana Department of Justice, Murrill has held her role as one of Landry’s “top deputies” since 2016 and, unfortunately, is able to run on the fact that she does have more experience in government than opponent Lindsey Cheek. Republican mega-donor Lane Grigsby, who was personally asked by Landry to back Murrill, states that “Even if you ask Jeff, she really runs the AG’s office already.”
As we also reported in last month’s voter guide, Murrill has been endorsed by the Louisiana Republican Party, the Republican Attorneys General Association (of which Jeff Landry is part of the leadership), was given $5,000 from Landry’s wife in campaign contributions, and shares a political advisor with Landry. According to her campaign finance report, Murrill had over $1.4 million in campaign cash as of September 14, including donations from Koch Industries, Entergy Corporation PAC, HOSPPAC, and Merlin Oil & Gas. Many of Landry’s mega donors have also donated to her campaign. She is currently a board member for Family Service of Greater Baton Rouge and the Baton Rouge chapter of the Federalist Society. In 2022, the anti-abortion group Louisiana Right to Life awarded Murrill with their Leadership for Life award.
Murrill claims that she carries a gun whenever she travels to New Orleans. In an August interview with radio host Brian Haldane, Murrill claimed that legal cannabis is being laced with fentanyl (it is not), repeated the unsubstantiated claim that marijuana is a gateway drug for so-called “harder drugs,” and that the smell of marijuana in cities such as New Orleans is ruining communities. In that same interview, Murrill made the false claim that abortion pills are being laced with fentanyl, marrying together her anti-abortion and anti-drug views.
According to the Louisiana Illuminator, in her tenure as solicitor general, Murrill worked alongside Landry on over three dozen lawsuits against the Biden administration; with Landry soon to be in the governor’s mansion, Murrill believes their cases will be stronger. Murrill also helped to fight federal COVID-19 mitigation protocols, claiming that officials at the local, state, and federal levels violated laws by putting mask and COVID-19 vaccine mandates in place (basic public health protocol during a pandemic). And, as is to be expected, she defended Louisiana’s abortion laws before the U.S. Supreme Court.
SUMMARY: A Liz Murrill victory would be a second victory for Jeff Landry. Lindsey Cheek is in some ways more reticent than we might like to use the power of the state to protect residents, but she has more progressive-leaning stances on abortion, crime, and environmental issues and, above all, would be able to mitigate some of the damage caused by Landry’s administration.
John Fleming (Republican)
Dustin Granger (Democrat)
The Louisiana Treasurer is in charge of managing state funds by “promoting prudent cash management and investment strategies as well as monitoring, regulating, and coordinating state and local debt obligations.” The race for state treasurer has not yet been claimed by a Republican. Democrat Dustin Granger received 32% of the vote, landing him in a runoff with Republican John Fleming who received 44%. In what’s sure to be a low turnout election, this gap is surmountable.
John Fleming is not only a Republican, he’s about as conservative as they come. Fleming helped found the House Freedom Caucus—along with Ron DeSantis—which, according to Pew Research Center, is “among the most conservative of House Republicans, with several falling on the rightmost end of the spectrum.”
He served as the assistant secretary for the Economic Development Administration during the Trump administration and also doesn’t know what fake news is. As we pointed out in the previous voter guide, in 2012, the then-sitting Congressman cited an Onion article titled “Planned Parenthood Opens $8 Billion Abortionplex” which outlined plans to “terminate unborn lives with an efficiency never before thought possible.”
According to The Advocate, in an interview Fleming gave after his Trump appointment he said “They offered it to me, and I thought about it, and I said, ‘Well, gosh, that’s what I’ve been doing—economic development.’” On global warming he also lends his eloquence, saying, “It’s very unscientific to say we had a big rain so it was caused by global warming.”
As AP reports, Republicans have been “ramping up their criticism of ‘ESG investing,’ a fast-growing movement that says it can pay dividends to consider environmental, social and corporate-governance issues when deciding where to invest pension and other public funds.” When asked by the Louisiana Illuminator how he would handle calls to boycott financial firms or pull projects from Louisiana localities over social issues, Fleming said he wouldn’t let his politics affect investments, though he would consider avoiding banks that avoid firearms companies and that “We don’t want to take away precious capital from the oil and gas industry.”
Fleming’s campaign website discusses his experience, his endorsements, and his family roots but does not discuss his vision for the office.
Dustin Granger, who has been endorsed by Mandie Landry and Royce Duplessis, along with a slew of other Democratic legislators, recently called for State Democratic Party Chair Katie Bernhardt to resign, condemning her “allowing countless seats to go uncontested, handing wins to far-right extremists, and attempting her own self-serving bid for governor[.]”
Granger is the owner of and financial advisor at Generation Wealth. A graduate of Sulphur High School and Louisiana State University, Granger is a lifelong Louisiana resident.
On his website, Granger breaks down his policy points by problem and solution on issues such as reversing “Jindal-nomics,” an insurance relief program, ending the Industrial Tax Exemption Program (ITEP), preserving homestead exemptions, and investing in “green” initiatives. ITEP policies have granted lucrative tax breaks to businesses, often ones harming the physical landscape of the state. Though outside the purview of his office, his website lists “strict abortion ban, gerrymandering, and laws restricting LGBTQ rights” as concerns.
When asked by the Louisiana Illuminator how he would handle financial boycotts over social issues, he said if elected, he would “immediately lift any prohibition Schroder has put in place on working with companies who favor alternative energy” and that he “intends to shift Louisiana’s public investments away from the oil and gas industry[.]”
SUMMARY: Fleming is one of the most conservative politicians around. Granger has a more detailed plan for the office and wants to move funds away from the oil and gas industry, and his distancing from the official Democratic Party, which has ceded power to extremist ring-wing candidates—including Governor-elect Jeff Landry who won outright and avoided a runoff—is promising.
Shaun Mena (Democrat)
Tammy M. Savoie (Democrat)
The Louisiana House of Representatives consists of 105 members, and they are responsible for considering proposed laws, resolutions, constitutional amendments, as well as appropriation of all funds for the operation of state government—all bills that raise revenue must originate in the House of Representatives. Representatives have four-year terms.
District 23 of the Louisiana House of Representatives includes the Mid-City, Bayou St. John, Hollygrove, Dixon, Gert Town, Tulane/Gravier, B.W. Cooper, and Fairgrounds neighborhoods.
This race is between two Democrats, one (Shaun Mena) who is a first-time candidate and one (Tammy Savoie) who has run for other offices in the past.
Shaun Mena (who won 29% of the vote in the October primary) is the son of Honduran immigrants and a lifelong resident of District 23, and claims to be the only candidate in this race who resides in District 23. He is also the scion of a union family; his father was a member of the carpenters’ union and his mother a member of the teachers’ union. The day after reaching the runoff election, Mena shared on his campaign Facebook page that “When I was coming of age, there were no professionals (attorneys, doctors etc.) that looked like me around the hood. Hopefully my presence and representation can be a spark to light the flame of imagination and possibilities in their lives.”
Mena received a favorable rating from the New Orleans AFL-CIO, as well as the endorsement of the United Teachers of New Orleans, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Local 527 union, Voters Organized to Educate, and IWO New Orleans. He is an official candidate of the Democratic Party, as endorsed by the Orleans Parish Democratic Executive Committee. After the October 14 primary election, Mena also received an endorsement from former District 23 Representative candidate Bryan Jefferson.
A personal injury attorney, he has his own private practice, The Mena Law Firm, that is advertised as “provid[ing] a bespoke client experience.” Prior to this, he worked as a legal claims reviewer, examining claims related to the Deepwater Horizon incident. Mena engaged in policy work before and during his legal education, including stints with Louisiana Housing Finance Agency (now Louisiana Housing Corporation) and the Louisiana Board of Regents, as a Policy Analyst for former Governor Kathleen Blanco, and as a legal intern for then-Senator Mary Landrieu in Washington, D.C. In other words, Mena clearly has had political, or at least policy, ambitions for years.
Mena is clearly committed to District 23; he is engaged in several community organizations, including the Mid-City Rotary Club, Warren Easton Alumni Association, and Mid-City Neighborhood Association and speaks passionately about his community in interviews. His campaign website lists his priorities for District 23 as public safety, education, insurance reform, infrastructure, equity, economic development, and health care, but does not offer any detail beyond that; in the voter guide for the October 14 primary election, we reported that Mena did not offer an actual plan for how to implement his priorities. In a recent interview on the local “From Chains to Change” podcast, Mena spoke in more detail about potential strategies for addressing the issues in the community, including implementation of a pilot universal basic income program, and how he might advocate for progressive values and New Orleans’ interests while working in a Republican-controlled state government. During that same interview, he spoke out in favor of LGBTQ and immigrant rights, and offered a critique of the charter school system in New Orleans noting that, among other things, it removes a sense of community from childrens’ education. He also noted that he and opponent Tammy Savoie are running without any animosity toward the other.
Tammy Savoie received 35.6% of the vote in the October 14 primary election. She has been a known entity in New Orleans elections, having previously run for Congress in November 2018 and the 94th District Democratic State Central Committee in 2020. At that time, the ANTIGRAVITY voter guide reported that she wanted to train counselors and law enforcement on the possibility of marijuana legalization, based on the belief that this would lead to increased addiction, despite evidence to the contrary.
Savoie is a clinical psychologist and served in the Air Force in a clinical role; she has been criticized for centering her military experience over policy. During her time with the Air Force, she did work with substance use disorder patients, which may explain her stance on drug use. In a Facebook page post made on August 31 in commemoration of Overdose Awareness Day, Savoie declared, “If elected, I vow to address this crisis head-on, with effective, evidence-based policies that support those who are struggling,” though what those policies might be is not clear.
Savoie’s current campaign platform has her vowing to focus on issues such as affordable housing, gun policy reform, reproductive justice (she is pro-choice), livable wage (though what that wage might be is not noted), voters’ rights, and addressing the climate crisis (she is a member of the Sierra Club). Her campaign received a “favorable” rating from the AFL-CIO, and endorsements from the IATSE and the IBEW Local 130. She participated in the October 17 Night Out Against Crime, which is organized by NOPD.
Her answers to the Voters Organized to Educate survey are more detailed than some other candidates in this race, where she states that her “number one budgetary and legislative priority is the environment” and that we must “move as quickly as possible to sustainable energy.” She also claims to want to address the increased cost of living in New Orleans, and to find a way to use federal funds to help people fortify their homes. However, the New Orleans DSA’s Fall 2023 voter guide reports that Savoie does not offer any supportive policies for renters. Savoie is also aligned with the current leadership of the Louisiana Democratic Party and a member of the Democratic State Central Committee, whose internal struggles and seeming inability to endorse its candidates and support progressive policies contributed to the disastrous results of the October 14 election.
SUMMARY: Both Mena and Savoie are fairly similar in their platforms. Savoie, however, is more deeply entrenched within the Louisiana Democrat Party establishment and leans heavily on her military background, while Mena is a lifelong resident of District 23 and has made it clear that the community is his priority.
Jacob Braud (Republican)
Mack Cormier (Democrat)
District 105 of the Louisiana House of Representatives covers the entirety of Plaquemines Parish and parts of Orleans and Jefferson parishes on the Westbank. The race comes down to a runoff between a Republican and a fairly conservative Democrat.
Republican Jacob Braud (who received 40% of the vote in the October primary) is a lawyer who has represented clients ranging from people affected by the Deepwater Horizon disaster to big companies like Walmart and Best Buy. He’s also worked on real estate matters, including some big Plaquemines Parish residential subdivisions and the Jesuit Bend Wetland Mitigation Bank marsh restoration project, and has his own title company.
The most detailed pledges of his campaign involve specific road projects in Plaquemines Parish he wants to see completed. Braud has also expressed an interest in taking on coastal restoration, health care outcomes, crime prevention, education, and insurance costs, but his plans there are far less specific. “My background includes representing insurance companies and policy holders,” he writes, for example. “I will put my experience and knowledge to work for you.” But how, we wonder?
According to his ethics filing, he and his wife (who is also an insurance lawyer) own more than $100,000 worth of stock in various big name tech companies like Microsoft, Apple, Netflix, Amazon, Nvidia, and Google parent Alphabet.
Braud thankfully seems to avoid the explicit anti-LGBTQ bigotry and general paranoia that afflict many of his partymates, but it remains to be seen how he’d vote on many social and personal freedom issues, and his party affiliation naturally makes us less than optimistic.
Incumbent Mack Cormier (who received 29% of the vote in the October primary) has held this seat since 2019. He also ran unsuccessfully in 2021 for the state Senate seat now held by Gary Carter Jr., and his father and brother both held office as Plaquemines Parish president.
Cormier is also a former teacher, “former little league coach” and an “inner city youth mentor and coach,” he told the League of Women Voters.
In his Senate run, Cormier called himself a “Pro-Life, Pro-Second Amendment, Pro-Religious Freedom Democrat.” This year, he repeatedly voted with Republicans seeking to overturn Gov. John Bel Edwards’ vetoes of right-wing bills targeting LGBTQ people, including: an anti-trans bill that would have required teachers to get parental permission to use names and pronouns that don’t match student records, a Don’t Say Gay bill that would have severely restricted teacher discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in classrooms and even extracurriculars for grades K-12, and a bill that passed over the governor’s veto to restrict gender affirming care for minors.
Cormier told the League of Women Voters he does support laws tackling the gender pay gap, teacher pay raises, “[i]nsurance transparency and fairness” and “paid family medical leave.” He wants to gradually raise the minimum wage “so as not to shock/put small companies out of business.”
He’s endorsed by both the NRA and the AFL-CIO and has claimed to have similar politics to Edwards (despite repeatedly voting to override the governor’s vetoes).
In our guide for the primary election, we pointed to a Facebook photo of Cormier at a shrimp industry rally, smiling with a sign that said “Regulate Imports,” along with the initials “FJB.” As we pointed out, that’s commonly an abbreviation for “Fuck Joe Biden.” Soon after the guide was published, that photo appears to have been taken down. Another version of the photo was published by Mack Cormier’s Facebook account on October 2, with FJB partially obscured by a semitransparent cartoon shrimp.
SUMMARY: One of these candidates is a Republican, and one of these candidates is a Democrat who regularly aligns himself with Republicans. Take your pick.
Amendments & Propositions
CA No. 1 (ACT 278, 2022 – HB 166)
Provides relative to timing of gubernatorial action on a bill and related matters.
Do you support an amendment to clarify that the timing of gubernatorial action on a bill and his return of a vetoed bill to the legislature is based upon the legislative session in which the bill passed and to authorize the legislature, if it is in session, to reconsider vetoed bills without convening a separate veto session? (Effective January 8, 2024) (Amends Article III, Section 18)
In March 2022, Governor John Bel Edwards vetoed the congressional redistricting map drawn by the state legislature that only included one majority-Black district, which Governor Edwards and activists considered to violate the Voting Rights Act. In response, the State Senate and House of Representatives temporarily paused the regular legislative session for a one-day veto session in which they overrode the governor’s veto against the redistricting map—the first override in 29 years. However, this wasn’t met without opposition—both in the Senate and the House, legislators weren’t clear if the abrupt veto session was legal since it disrupted another legislative session. There was rift in both chambers as Democrats voted against the temporary adjournment due to legal suspicions of the procedure.
In comes this constitutional amendment, authored by Republican State Representative Gregory Miller and unanimously passed in the House in early April 2022. Its aim is to clarify the Louisiana Constitution’s stipulations around the governor’s veto deadline and the manner of holding veto sessions. It will specify that the existing timelines apply only to the session in which the bill in question was passed (10 days to veto if still in legislative session or 20 days to veto if that legislative session has adjourned). Most importantly, it will allow the legislature to consider bills vetoed by the governor during an ongoing regular or extraordinary session (such was the case mentioned before), removing the need for a temporary hiatus to hold a separate veto session. Otherwise, if the legislature weren’t currently in session, then legislators would meet 40 days after the vetoed bill’s passage, according to the current Constitution.
If Constitutional Amendment 1 were to be approved, it would effectively allow the legislature to streamline processing vetoes from the governor and taking timely remedial action if necessary. In the case of the redistricting veto, it would have meant the Legislature could have received and considered the governor’s veto letter during the general session rather than calling a veto session. It really doesn’t affect the schedule for either the governor or legislative body, as the timeframes for deadlines remain the same.
The proposed change has marginal benefit—either it adds clearer stipulations or adds more confusing language.
SUMMARY: Vote “No” on Amendment 1.
CA No. 2 (ACT 199, 2023 – HB 254)
Repeals certain funds in the state treasury.
Do you support an amendment to remove provisions of the Constitution of Louisiana which created the following inactive special funds within the state treasury: Atchafalaya Basin Conservation Fund, Higher Education Louisiana Partnership Fund, Millennium Leverage Fund, Agricultural and Seafood Products Support Fund, First Use Tax Trust Fund, Louisiana Investment Fund for Enhancement and to provide for the transfer of any remaining monies in such funds to the state general fund? (Repeals Article VII, Sections 4(D)(4)(b), 10.4, 10.10, and 10.12(B) and (C) and Article IX, Sections 9 and 10)
Bill author State Representative Polly Thomas, a Republican, along with the unanimous support of both state legislative chambers, wishes to clean up the State Constitution of six defunct funding pools enacted by the state as far back as 1978. The six funds in question are the Atchafalaya Basin Conservation Fund, Higher Education Louisiana Partnership Fund, Millennium Leverage Fund, Agricultural and Seafood Products Support Fund, First Use Tax Trust Fund, and Louisiana Investment Fund for Enhancement (LIFE). These zero balance or near-empty funds have not been touched since lawmakers pulled $361,000 from the LIFE fund in 2003, which leaves about $600 remaining and makes this fund the only one holding money. This balance would be rolled into the state general fund. According to the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana, funds like LIFE are no longer collecting money and not currently being used. Typical accounting principles dedicate a fund to a specific project for proper bookkeeping. Over time, the project becomes obsolete, thus prompting the retirement of depleted funds.
This language doesn’t imply that money is literally being pulled from conservation or education funds, but rather that the bank rolls that used to collect money once tied to these funds are not useful to keep around. However, reflecting on these funds’ outcomes may be a proactive way to keep legislators accountable for those funds before they repeal them. Passing this amendment would remove these six funds from the Louisiana Constitution, decluttering it of the fund mechanisms that are no longer operational, given that funds are now usually established by law (not by the State Constitution).
Repealing these funds has no impact on the state’s financials, but seeks to clear up unnecessary language from an already-cluttered State Constitution.
SUMMARY: Vote “Yes” on Amendment 2.
CA No. 3 (ACT 179, 2023 – SB 127)
Provides for an ad valorem tax exemption for certain first responders.
Do you support an amendment to authorize the local governing authority of a parish to provide an ad valorem tax exemption for qualified first responders? (Adds Article VII, Section 21(O))
Louisiana constitutional amendments are quite notorious for their property tax exemptions, with one last month about barring property tax exemptions for bad landlords and one last year that gave tax breaks to veterans with disabilities. Both were approved by voters. On this month’s ballot, State Senator Royce Duplessis, a Democrat, wrote this amendment to allow parishes to approve property tax breaks for “qualified first responders,” which is a fairly broad range of occupations: firefighters, police officers, EMS personnel, emergency response operators, and any full-time employees that are involved in rapid response emergencies and live in the same parish where their employer is located. It passed almost unanimously in the State Legislature, save for one Republican, Senator Barrow Peacock from Shreveport-Bossier.
Currently, Louisiana allows for homestead exemptions of up to $75,000 of the home’s value to its residents. Additional tax breaks are provided for residents living with disabilities, some military veterans, and senior homeowners. This amendment would give parishes the option to add first responders to this list of qualified residents and permit exemptions of up to $25,000 of the home’s value for this population, pending parish approval, starting in 2024. To roll out this exemption, tax assessors would have to create a certification process for eligible residents to apply, spending resources, and parishes may need to adjust annual budgets to account for any decrease in revenue.
As common as these property tax breaks are in Louisiana, it remains the leading source of tax revenue for parish governments to operate and service its constituents. Parishes will need to assess the financial impact of approving this exemption for their first responders. Some may decide that the exemption is a worthy incentive to help recruit an already strained workforce during a time of housing market upheaval.
Property tax breaks are non-preferential to actual system reform that maintains fair pay to first responders and should not be regulated by property tax breaks that can exacerbate inequitable tax burden onto other taxpayers who own homes of similar value.
SUMMARY: Vote “No” on Amendment 3.
CA No. 4 (ACT 198, 2023 – HB 244)
Provides relative to the use of monies in the Revenue Stabilization Trust Fund.
Do you support an amendment authorizing the legislature, after securing a two-thirds vote of each house, to use up to two hundred fifty million dollars from the Revenue Stabilization Trust Fund to alleviate a budget deficit subject to conditions set forth by law and allowing the legislature to modify such conditions for accessing the monies in the fund, subject to two-thirds vote? (Amends Article VII, Section 10.15(E)(1) and (F); Adds Article VII, Section 10.15(G))
On a first reading, Constitutional Amendment 4 appears to be common sense. Though the rules behind the Revenue Stabilization Trust Fund are a bit less clear, hence the reason for this amendment. Narrowly approved by voters in 2016, the Revenue Stabilization Trust Fund is separate from the Budget Stabilization Fund, also known as Louisiana’s “rainy day” fund. The rainy day fund is mostly comprised of state surplus dollars, whereas the Revenue Stabilization Trust Fund collects corporate tax above a certain threshold and some tax dollars from oil and gas exploration, like corporate income tax, franchise tax, and a portion of production revenue tax, depositing $205 million its first year of collections and generating more than $2.2 billion since inception.
Once the fund accrues a total of $5 billion, the legislature is allowed to spend up to 10% of its funds on construction and transportation infrastructure projects. With a two-thirds vote, the legislature can also adjust that threshold and how much they’re allowed to spend. In an emergency, the legislature can also spend as much as needed from the fund with a two-thirds vote.
While this amendment sounds like it’s giving more power to the legislature in the event of a budget deficit, it’s actually limiting the legislature’s power, since it would replace the emergency provision with what the Public Affairs Research Council calls a “more complicated” process to spend up to $250 million to alleviate a budget deficit, provided the legislature has already exhausted the main rainy day fund. Another two-thirds vote could also remove the $250 million cap, provided there was a budget deficit and the rainy day fund was already spent down.
In essence, the amendment would impose more formal hoops for the legislature to jump through in accessing this money. But in practice, it would still make it accessible by the same two-thirds majority rule in the circumstance where the legislature would be likely to tap it: a perceived emergency where there isn’t other money to spend.
It’s a confusing proposal that would add complexity to the constitution without delivering much, if any, benefit to voters.
SUMMARY: Vote “No” on Amendment 4.
Delachaise Security and Imp. Dist. – Parcel Fee – CC – 5 Yrs.
Shall the City of New Orleans levy an annual fee on each parcel of land in the Delachaise Security and Improvement District (“District”), comprised of the area within the boundaries delineated in Act 269 of the Legislature’s 2023 Regular Session, in the amount of and not to exceed: three hundred fifty dollars ($350) per residential parcel which is unimproved or contains a single-family dwelling, four hundred dollars ($400) per residential parcel which contains two to four dwelling units, one thousand dollars ($1,000) per residential parcel which contains five or more dwelling units, and five hundred dollars ($500) for each unimproved and improved parcel zoned for commercial use, for a period of and not to exceed five (5) years, beginning January 1, 2024 and ending December 31, 2028, which fee is estimated to generate approximately $200,000 annually, to be used exclusively for the purpose of promoting and encouraging the beautification, security, and overall betterment of the District, except a 1% City collection fee, and if used for additional law enforcement or security personnel and their services, such personnel and services shall be supplemental to and not in lieu of personnel and services provided by the New Orleans Police Department?
This district was initially created in 2018, and its boundaries were updated last year by the state legislature. Voters in the district approved a parcel fee (basically a special property tax) last year, then the district boundaries, tax system, and governance structure were updated again this year through a bill authored by Representative Mandie Landry, and, well, here we are again.
Like other similar districts, this one has the potential to use this tax money on “other activities and improvements for the betterment of the District” beyond simply security. But we weren’t able to locate any current or proposed budget information for the district, so we can’t say for sure whether it spends money on causes other than security.
SUMMARY: If you live in this district, you probably know better than we do whether you’re getting your money’s worth from this tax. And since it’s a small district, your vote can easily make a real difference.
Lake Terrace Crime Prevention District – Parcel Fee – CC – 8 Yrs.
Shall the City of New Orleans levy an annual fee on each improved parcel of land within the Lake Terrace Crime Prevention District (“District”), encompassing the area bounded by: the center line of Allen Toussaint Boulevard, center line of London Avenue Canal, center line of Bayou St. John, and the south shoreline of Lake Pontchartrain, in an amount: (1) not to exceed $550 per parcel, with the fee amount as determined by duly adopted Board resolution; (2) $700 if the parcel has 3+ family units; or (3) not to exceed $1,750 if the parcel is used as a short term rental, with the fee amount as determined by duly adopted Board resolution, for a term of 8 years, beginning January 1, 2024 and ending December 31, 2031, which fee is estimated to generate approximately $239,250 annually, to be used exclusively for aiding in crime prevention and enhancing the security of District residents with an increased law enforcement presence, except a 1% City collection fee, and if used for additional law enforcement or security personnel and their services, such personnel and services shall be supplemental to and not in lieu of personnel and services provided by the New Orleans Police Department?
This district provides “patrol and security services” in its section of Gentilly. Indeed, that’s essentially all it spends money on, according to its latest financial filings, besides insurance and accounting costs.
It’s called a “crime prevention district” but as we’ve said before, data is generally scarce about what these types of privatized security patrols (often staffed by off-duty cops from other agencies) do and even whether they’re actually effective at preventing crime. One study from a decade ago by the City’s Office of Inspector General found such districts do seem to have lower rates of property crime but no significant difference in violent crime or murder rates.
“Evaluators also examined crime trends before and after the formation of five new security districts and found no clear trends… Furthermore, security districts were only available to those able to pay additional taxes for increased services, which raises the question of whether public safety should be treated as a private good at the neighborhood level, or as a public good at the city-wide level,” the OIG warned at the time.
And as The Lens pointed out in a May story about officers from another security district facing a lawsuit after allegedly racially profiling, stopping, and pulling guns on young Black males looking for a lost dog, the districts generally aren’t bound by the federal consent decree designed to rein in NOPD. According to court documents, the officers in that case allegedly justified the stop in part by pointing out that the BMW the young men were traveling in was registered in New Orleans East, far from the Uptown neighborhood where they were stopped. (It’s frankly difficult to imagine anything comparable happening to white motorists visiting friends across town.)
That incident only reinforces concerns that the districts function, in part, to enforce neighborhood boundaries and segregation. A federal judge in September found the officers didn’t violate the young men’s rights: “In all, this Court concludes that, in light of the totality of the circumstances, it was reasonable for Defendants to point their guns at the car as they conducted a Terry stop late at night, in light of the totality of the circumstances that existed at the time,” the judge wrote.
A website for the Lake Terrace Property Owners Association, which appoints some members to the Crime Prevention District’s board, indicates the District is patrolled by Pinnacle Security, the firm that made headlines this year after one of its guards was arrested for shooting someone who allegedly threw a rock and phone at her outside the Main Library.
“While it is true that not every security guard who works for this company should be considered a liability, I would argue that the overall track record of this particular agency has shown itself to be unsatisfactory,” a library employee said at a staff meeting, where complaints were aired about the company, according to nola.com.
SUMMARY: Say no to privatized police.
Eastover Neighborhood Imp. and Security District – $2,152 Parcel Fee – CC – In Perp.
Shall the City of New Orleans levy, in perpetuity, an annual flat $2,152 “Eastover Neighborhood Improvement and Security District Fee” on each parcel of land (including condominium parcels) within the Eastover Neighborhood Improvement and Security District, comprised of that area within the following boundaries: northern boundary is the northern boundary of the Eastover Subdivision, southern boundary is Dwyer Road, eastern boundary is the I-10 Service Road, and western boundary is the Jahncke Canal (except, conditionally, the property located at 5690 Eastover Drive), provided that when a single family dwelling occupies multiple adjacent parcels, the flat fee for the combined parcel shall be calculated at 1.4 times the single parcel fee for two adjacent parcels and 1.6 times the single parcel fee for three or more adjacent parcels, commencing January 1, 2024, which fee is estimated to generate approximately $822,064 annually, to be used exclusively for promoting and encouraging the beautification, security, and overall betterment of the District, except a 1% City collection fee, and if used for additional law enforcement or security personnel and their services, such personnel and services shall be supplemental to and not in lieu of personnel and services provided by the New Orleans Police Department?
This particular tax would apply only in the Eastover subdivision in New Orleans East, where according to state law, this district is run by the Eastover Property Owners’ Association’s board.
We covered this tax and district in April, as did Verite News, which noted controversy in the neighborhood over the fee, as well as the future of the neighborhood. That’s after a seemingly abortive redevelopment plan left a large hole in the ground and failed to address issues like a shuttered golf course that’s been damaged since Hurricane Katrina and is now populated by feral hogs. Residents in April voted against the fee, and now it’s back on the ballot for a second try.
As far as spending, according to the district’s financial paperwork for 2022, the district had $504,118 in expenses last year, including $193,623 for “security”—the largest part of the budget—and $157,009 for “maintenance.”
SUMMARY: About 38% of this money goes toward “security.” Say no (for the second time this year) to privatized police.
Mid-City Security District – Parcel Fee – CC – 8 Yrs.
Shall the City of New Orleans levy an annual fee on each parcel of land in the Mid-City Security District (“District”), within the boundaries delineated by La. R.S. 33:9091.14(B), in the following amounts for residential parcels: $250 per unimproved parcel, single-family, two-family, townhouse, or condominium dwelling; $300 per parcel with three- or four-family dwellings; $600 per parcel with 5-9 rental units; $1,000 per parcel with 10-19 rental units; $2,000 per parcel with 20-39 rental units; $4,000 per parcel with 40+ rental units; $150 per parcel subject to La. Const. Art. VII, Sec. 18; or $500 per commercial parcel, with any parcel used for commercial and residential purposes considered commercial if comprised of fewer than 4 residential units and residential if comprised of 4+ residential units, for eight (8) years, beginning January 1, 2024 and ending December 31, 2031, which is estimated to generate approximately $1,235,219 annually, to be used exclusively for promoting and encouraging security within the District, except a 1% City collection fee, and if used for additional law enforcement or security personnel and their services, such personnel and services shall be supplemental to and not in lieu of personnel and services provided by the New Orleans Police Department?
The District reports that “slightly over 90% is spent on patrol and security services such as security lights and a surveillance camera program,” a number backed up by publicly available financial statements. The state legislature passed a bill this year to change its allowed fee structure—it would mostly raise taxes on apartment buildings, commercial properties, and vacant lots—and the District is now asking voters to sign off on that new tax structure for the next eight years.
In general, the Mid-City Security District provides greater transparency than many other districts, making board minutes, agendas, and financial documents readily available on its website. But our concerns about semi-privatized policing, focused on particular areas of the city, still remain. So do our concerns about the use of private security companies like Pinnacle.
Pinnacle Security CEO Chad Perez issued a statement in response to the library shooting, included in the District’s August minutes. In it, he called news coverage of the shooting “misleading” and vowed to provide employees with more training and run more stringent background checks on new hires. The minutes also mention that a resident “provided concerns and complaints about Pinnacle and how she has been treated.”
SUMMARY: Say no to privatized police.
Bouligny Improvement District – 20 Mills – CC – 8 Yrs.
Shall the City of New Orleans levy a special ad valorem tax upon all taxable immovable property within the Bouligny Improvement District (“District”), encompassing the area bounded by: Upperline Street (both sides) to Prytania Street (river side only) to Napoleon Avenue (upper side only) to Tchoupitoulas Street (both sides) and back to Upperline Street, except all municipal numbers on Prytania Street and Napoleon Avenue and those qualifying for and receiving the special assessment level provided by Article VII, Section 18(G)(1) of the Louisiana Constitution, in the amount of and not to exceed twenty (20) mills, with the amount of the tax to be requested by duly adopted resolution of the District’s Board of Commissioners, for a term of eight (8) years, beginning January 1, 2024 and ending December 31, 2031, which fee is estimated to generate approximately $250,000 annually, to be used exclusively for the purpose of promoting and encouraging security in the District, except a 1% City collection fee, and if used for additional law enforcement or security personnel and their services, such personnel and services shall be supplemental to and not in lieu of personnel and services provided by the New Orleans Police Department?
This district was created by the state legislature in 2022. It was “established for the primary object and purpose of promoting and encouraging security in the area included within the district,” according to the law, so while we don’t yet have records showing how this tax money would be spent, we can assume that it would be for security patrols and other privatized policing measures.
SUMMARY: Say no to privatized police.
The deadline for the registrar of voters to receive a mail ballot is November 17 by 4:30 p.m. (other than military and overseas voters).
Early voting for this election begins on November 3 and ends on November 11 (excluding Sunday, November 4 and Friday, November 10 for Veterans Day), from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Saturday election day voting hours are 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
RM 1W24; 1300 Perdido St. 70112
RM 105; 225 Morgan St. 70114
Voting Machine Warehouse
8870 Chef Menteur Highway 70127
Lake Vista Community Center
6500 Spanish Fort Blvd. 70124
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